I run 10k races and above and now undertake sprint triathlons. So apart from parkruns, which as I am often reminded are runs not races, I never ‘competitively’ enter 5k races. But when my village organises an affiliated race in…..well crawling distance from where I wake up screaming every morning….it seems rude not to. Especially when the charity benefiting from any surplus from the fees is our local British Legion.
When I was a different person (Mark Mk III shall we say) and just before my father died he let slip he had been in Korea. We knew he had been part of National Service, that scheme where terrified young men were enrolled to defend Queen and Country. What we only found out at his end was he was terrified mainly because he spent time in another country whilst people lobed mortar bombs. I wonder why he never spoke of it.
But then again perhaps I do understand. A work colleague, as a Territorial (part time soldier), went to Iraq and came back a different man. And that difference was ground into him by a departing wife and his employer, a major multi national, making him effectively redundant. He didn’t fall to pieces so much as melt, loosing all his points of reference and we all did too little. I hear, from bigger friends than I, that he has endured and settled.
So a local race for a group much tarred with the wrong brush was too much to turn down. The village is over and on a hill so much merriment was caused by the course description as ‘flat’. A 5pm start seemed an odd time but in part down to village politics and manners. The summer fete needed time to clear post cream teas. We are so English.
I have to admit I was bemused by the whole thing, such a small, short race but quite simply ANY race gets my attention by the time we are called to order. Like Ardingly this race seemed to have a dearth of fun runners and I wondered, on my home patch, whether I might finally be revealed as the great wheezing old flatulent fake I am. It’s about time.
But as the whistle blew my need to fuck my MS, tumour and blackdog fired up too. Never underestimate self hate as a motivational tool. As I often tweet, blog, my body takes a great delight in trying to cripple me. It’s going to have to try harder….
The first turn and hill was a killer and way to burn through the calories. The locals (bar the inhuman 107) paced themselves behind the pack before turning down hill. eighth at that point (I think) the downward turn lead me running against traffic but with enough steam to dance through the metal and gain traction on the bend to Denmans Lane. I was at a lovely when I heard the heavy breathing of another.
Under certain circumstances heavy breathing behind you is a good thing but in a race less so. I had to push a little but my pursuer wouldn’t fuck off. Second lap up the hill and he touched shoulders. He had no shoes.
Fuck it. I was being overtaken by a barefoot runner. Sure he was younger and looked fitter (bastard) but BAREFOOT!!! My enormous ego took over finding every ounce of energy on the downhill playing chicken with oncoming traffic. I am the Man Of Rust you will yield. Oh you’re a car, maybe not.
But a ten metres gap I thought I had disappeared even through the cross country section. Mr Big Foot had soles of steel as he began to create a gap and my limited lung capacity began to tire. I thought I had been outrun not noticing that we had both began to pass other runners in our own little battle.
And there we were, home straight. He seemed too far away…
But I came to race not to run and age has one advantage. Experience. My French friend (as he turned out to be) had spent too much on the cross country. With my lungs screaming I took him with 50 metres to go. Hard?
What do you think?
My best ever 5k 19 minutes 57 seconds. Fuck you MS.